Monday, 30 January 2012


I really wish I had read the book before I saw the film. Atonement was a great read, but a bit tarnished by the fact that I knew what was going to happen. I'm a bit surprised though, call me crazy, but I actually found it a bit uplifting towards the end. After a lifetime of regret over a childhood mistake, it felt like a bit of a breath of fresh air to conclude with Briony taking back control of her life a little. I wonder how much reading all of these profound and affecting novels will actually shape me as a person. It seems that every other book I get through gets me thinking about all manner of deep life issues - Atonement is, in it's most basic form, simply a story about human error, miscommunication, childish motives and how one moment can shape the rest of your life. Who's to blame in it? Several people I think. They all could have done something differently and altered the outcome, and so I take from it the idea that we're all fallible and can make bad choices but that it's how to move forward from them that is the important part. No mistakes, only lessons. I hope I never have a part in such a dramatic 'lesson' that people's lives are ruined in the way Celia and Robbie's were though! So, while on the deep, thoughtful and rather eye-opening themes I've moved straight into The Colour Purple by Alice Walker. A fast and easy read with a harsh and pretty shocking storyline. I'm once again developing my southern American drawl - must remember to get into something with a very English accent soon before it becomes permanent.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Gosh, it's 2012 already!

Time flies doesn't it?! Well, the new year did bring with it a bit of quality reading time and I've thoroughly enjoyed getting completely drawn into The Help. I did suffer the consequences of adopting a southern American drawl for a while - torrents of abuse from my Yorkshire friends - but when you've got your head in Mississippi every evening some of those phrases just seem to stick! Far from finding a follow-up that would assist in correcting my English I moved on to Catcher in the Rye, J D Salinger's classic. I have to be brutally honest here. I just found it irritating. Perhaps I missed the point, but getting through to the end was more the case of a tick in the box than desperately wanting to know where the arrogant, depressed and rather annoying subject character would end up. Still, a nice short one and now I've decided to go right into the thick of traumatic and hard-hitting novels and have opened Atonement. I've seen the film, which I'm hoping won't make it any less of an intense read, but it was a while back now and the details are definitely back to being fuzzy. I've yet to get my head into it (but then I'm only one chapter in) - perhaps a couple of hours dedicated reading tonight with a nice mug of Horlicks will do the trick. Yes, Horlicks. It's winter!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Pre-Christmas Stardust

Having seen the film a few times I thought it might spoil the book experience a bit as I started tucking into Neil Gainman's Stardust, but it turns out the storylines only loosely fit each other. A nice easy read - and something a bit less haunting after Birdsong - so pretty much exactly what I needed! It's such a good fun story, with various tangents that crop up and lead you into some very strange scenarios and has the odd touch of graphic violence to keep you on your toes (wasn't expecting that at all!). I'm definitely slacking a bit now - it's taken me over a week to read that little gem, despite being the kind of book I could probably have digested in a day if I'd been willing. But it's only 12 days until the winter festivities are in full swing, so I've allowed myself a bit of time for tree decorating, present buying and, of course, for guilty pleasure television.
I'm reaching a point where my supplies of books that are as yet unread are diminishing fast so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that santa will be deilvering a few soon. I'm about a third of the way into the list now, 33 down and a whole lot more to go.
I'm struggling to pick something for just before Christmas - might have to go for American Gods now that I'm in the Neil Gaiman mood. Or perhaps a bit of Terry Pratchett. I wonder if the experience of having my nose in a fantasy book will be enhanced now that my flat is filled with fairy lights and tinsel...

Monday, 28 November 2011

Birdsong - an incredible read

Well, no one warned me quite how affecting Birdsong is. I couldn't put it down, but half the time couldn't read the words for welling up. I don't think I've ever read anything, or seen a film that gives you quite such a personal account of life in the trenches. Reading about the war usually allows you some distance, but this book makes it so personal that you get completely sucked in. It's so clever in the use of context. Characters that I could easily dislike in another novel became the ones I was most fond of, and most precious about if it's possible to feel protective of a fictional figure. The events they go through in the book and as a result the perspective of life they have are so well described that you shift your own boundaries of what is 'likable' in a person. It's a very humbling read.
I've travelled a lot. I read a lot. I studied anthropology and I try to always open my mind to learning about the world from every source available. But reading Birdsong just reminded me of how sheltered our lives are. How different things are now and how privaledged we are to live in a world which was created for us by generations before us who gave up their lives so we could have the protected, safe environment we do now. And that there are still people who dedicate their lives to ensuring it stays that way. I always find it hard to read or see things that relate to war. I find it very upsetting to think about the horrors that people have faced (and are facing) in fighting for whatever cause is on the table at the time. But I loved this book. Every page of it.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Severe blog neglect

Wow, has it really been that long since I last logged in? Eeesh, must remember to look back into the real world every now and again. Apologies for any typos but I'm typing this entry one-handed having had a bit of a fight with my bedroom door and broken a finger last week. Not the best thing I've ever done, but the long wait for the operating table to come free in the hospital meant I could finally get in a few good hours quality book time without feeling guilty about the indulgence. Every cloud and all that...
I found Dracula to be pretty heavy going if I'm being honest. I enjoyed it, and can see why it's such a popular novel with the impressive detail, beautifully descriptive and elegant language and the way the suspense builds, but the trouble I had was that it's so famous. All of the great revelations throughout the book are things you already know so the element of mystery that it must hold for anyone who doesn't know the story of Dracula is really diminished. The other big problem I had with it was the constant battle I was having with my own brain to not read Van Helsing's voice in a Jamaican accent. It was a fleeting moment where I thought the writing style gave him a caribbean twang and the next thing I know everytime he spoke I found myself developing his creole. Sigh. I do wish I had more control over my mind sometimes. He still remains my favourite character in the book. I spent a lot of time finding dark, quiet places to read it in the hope that the atmosphere would get me more into the spirit, but sadly I wasn't drawn in to the degree I'd hoped and found myself flagging a bit towards the end. Still, glad to have read it!
I've popped the Hobbit in my bag with the intention of that being the new venture, but I'm now wondering if perhaps I need something more modern to boost my enthusiasm again. I really want my next one to be something I can't put down... may need to get a bit of advice from the Twitter crew on what's going to give me that brilliant book buzz back.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Pride, Prejudice and WBN 2012!

I've loved reading Pride and Prejudice again so many years after the first time. I'd completely forgotten how much I enjoy it. Mr Bennet is by far my favourite character for his one liners, dry sarcasm and mostly for his quiet tolerance of a busy-body wife. I must be a bit of a romanic at heart as I still swoon over Mr. Darcy and shed a tear or two when the stiff upper lip finally drops to admit his feelings. It's a real pleasure re-visiting some of these classics, and I'm thinking it might be appropriate to start Dracula next with it being Halloween. I was served by a zombie in tesco the other day. And contrary to what horror films would have you believe it actually brightened my day a bit, he was a very amiable chap and quite smiley for the undead...
The other thing that's really brightened my day is getting my application in for WBN 2012! Loving the list again this year, and it's already added a few titles to my ever growing list of things I need to read (this challenge may actually carry me through to my 40s at this rate). I've chosen Touching the Void as my number one - nice surprise to see that one on the list! It's one of the books that I recommend to people time and time again, so if I manage to get chosen again as a giver (and it's with my first choice) I'll love giving that one out. If you haven't read it yet, I really recommend you do. It's incredible. It's basically an account of a climbing accident and the subsequent experiences of those involved - all true and all almost unbelievable. If you're anything like me you'll get to the end feeling somewhat blown away and also seeing that human limits are actually way beyond what we think when it comes to the crunch. I can't say I ever warmed to Joe, the guy whose story it is, but I certainly have a huge amount of respect and admiration for him.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Northern Lights

Having seen the film but never read the book, I've been wanting to get my teeth into the first part of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy for a while. And I'm definitely not disappointed! I've caught myself checking for people's daemons walking next to them a few times. It seems most people in our world have canine daemons...
I never thought of myself as a fan of fantasy, but it's impossible not to get drawn into Northern Lights and start believing the magic. Such brilliant escapism and fast paced action all the way through. If I weren't so keen to get through a few more books on the list I'd be straight out to buy book two, but discipline is the key to getting some more ticked off the top 100.
I'm really enjoying this so far, but it's tough finding time to read so much. I always considered reading something of a guilty pleasure; an hour before going to sleep or indulgence when you're on holiday. Incorporating more reading into everyday life has actually changed my habits quite a lot. The trouble is you can't just have a book 'on in the background' while you're cooking or cleaning. Reading demands time and concentration and I think I'm running short on both a lot of the time! I wonder if audio books would be cheating...